Guyanese icon, Yesu Persaud told me a story when Cheddi Jagan was President of Guyana. The time was 1993. President Jagan was in the Republic Park home of his PPP colleague, medical doctor, Moti Lall. The occasion was President Jagan’s informal chat with a group of businessmen. Mr. Persaud recalled that the request was made to President Jagan about his urgent attention in relation to changing the constitution. Mr. Persaud said he was taken by complete surprise by the answer of Jagan.
Jagan told the gathering, “why is that urgent, can you see me becoming a dictator?” Yesu Persaud repeated that story on his television programme, “Eye on the Issue,” when he interviewed Moses Nagamootoo in 2013. Incidentally, I watched the interview at the Kaieteur News. Dr. Jagan had to know that structures were more important that people. This was Aristotle’s famous critique of his teacher, Plato. Aristotle’s main contention against Plato’s breathtaking book, ‘The Republic’, was that people can change, so it is best to let laws do the talking rather than people.
This particular insight of Aristotle is regarded as one of the seminal contributions in philosophy. Written more than two thousand years ago, Aristotle’s point has influenced all subsequent generations. One can trace the concept of “conflict of interest” directly to Aristotle’s adumbration of the power of laws over the feelings of rulers. People can do all sorts of unpredictable things, so it is best to have a structure that people are subordinated to rather than leave it up to the desires of leaders.
There can be no accusation against a judge if he recuses himself from a business trial in which his wife has shares in the company. There can be no accusation against a bank’s CEO if he removes himself from deciding on a tender if the applying company is closely associated with his son. I honestly believe Jagan knew all these things, but he now had power and he wanted what the constitution put at his disposal.
This column is not a comment on the pharmaceutical bond fiasco. It is about instances where President Granger fell down. The bond issue is what I will start with. President Granger cannot say that he does not know what conflict of interest is. I would not accept that from an educated person like President Granger. Instantaneously, Mr. Granger should have gone outside of the Cabinet. I doubt the Vice-Chancellor or the Registrar of UG would have refused his request to investigate. I doubt our former judges would have turned down the President. I doubt retired head teachers would have said no to the President. If Mr. Granger never thought that in appointing a Cabinet sub-committee to investigate, it would not have been seen as conflict of interest, I hope he pulls himself up long before 2020.
Next we go way back to May 2015. If Mr. Granger did not generate the thought himself, when the proposal came to him, he should have instantly rejected it. I would like to be part of an intellectual exchange with the President to hear him analyse the decision for dissolving the Ministry of Youth. I am saying that explanation cannot be strong enough to stand up in the contextual argument of Guyana’s needs.
Next is the scrapping of the Ministry of Labour and the creation of a Ministry of Business. The juxtaposition is so stark that it appears surreal. The working people of this country had their ministry reduced to a department, while the business community has a ministry that tends to their interests. But here is the thing. It doesn’t have to be one against the other. I support a ministry of business, though I would not have named it that. But I also support a ministry of labour.
My question to President Granger is why he chose not to have a ministry of labour and if it doesn’t send a bad signal to trade unions and workers that their ministry is abolished or reduced to a department within another ministry, yet he has a ministry of business. It would be interesting to all Guyanese to hear his intellectualizing on these two abolitions – youth and labour.
Finally, has the President discussed with his ministers the meticulous awareness at all times not to play into the hands of the PPP? It is one of the many leadership factors and is referred to in the textbook as “Situational Sensitivity.” With the controversy that enveloped BK Tiwarie and Joe Harmon why did Mr. Harmon go to the Eugene Correia Airport to turn the sod of a project by Tiwarie and not the Minister of Business or the two Public Infrastructure Ministers?
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